Tourism pioneer and environmental steward Stan Stephens died Sept. 21, 2013, in Valdez, of amyloidosis affecting the heart and nervous system. Born Nov. 16, 1934, in Perham, Minn., Stan was the son of Frank and Doreen Stephens.
Stan moved to North Pole in 1961 and married the love of his life, Mary Helen Stephens, in 1964. They raised three daughters in North Pole, where Stan worked as a mechanic and spent his weekends exploring the state and Prince William Sound. He fell in love with PWS, and in 1971, founded his first company, North Star Marine Charters, specializing in hunting and fishing tours out of Valdez.
In 1978, he and Mary Helen founded Stan Stephens Charters, a company dedicated to sharing the glaciers and wildlife of PWS with tourists from around the country and the world. A pioneer of cruising in the region, he loved being on the water showcasing the place he loved the most.
Stan was one of the fathers of the Alaska tourism industry and was dogged in his pursuit of helping the industry thrive and grow. Not only did he diligently work to promote Valdez, but he dedicated his time and resources to ensure funding was available to market Alaska to the nation and to the world. He was instrumental in the Alaska Visitors Industry Association, Alaska Wilderness Recreation Tourism Association and the Alaska Travel Industry Association.
Stan was a meticulous steward of Prince William Sound and after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, publicly declared that he would dedicate the rest of his life to making sure the area was protected. He worked diligently with members from the industry to ensure PWS was a safe cold weather shipping port and to ensure that the environment and marine residents were protected.
Stan lived his life by the following guidelines: He implicitly trusted people and allowed them to fulfill their promises and perform to their highest potential. He committed himself 100 percent to any mission he embarked upon. He believed in building alliances and relationships that allowed views from all sides of an issue to reach a positive outcome. Stan was a mentor to hundreds of employees, coworkers and industry officials and was an amazing man who changed lives and provided direction to all he encountered.
Surviving Stan are his wife of 49 years, Mary Helen Stephens; daughters, Carrie Nash and family, of Fairbanks; Jenna Stephens and family, of Seattle, Wash.; and Colleen Stephens and family, of Valdez.